“You have to make your bed because I said so,” you exclaim to your teenage son who has now mastered the art of being argumentative. His points that making a bed he is only destined to sleep in again, in just a few hours - seem plausible. But that’s not the point. The point is you asked your child to do something and like a respected judge in the Supreme Court, you lowered the gavel and expect adherence. As tempting as it is to engage the lip service of your son who still thinks that bed making is simply an extension of your anal retentiveness – it is more important to you that he does what you say. Now.
Yet, you were the same kid who hated when your own parents used this ‘because I said so,’ mentality to answer questions, win arguments or gracefully bow out of communicative engagements that to be frank, they no longer wanted any part of. At some point, you likely made a promise to yourself that YOU would never do that and that you would always be willing, able, and glad to explain to your child why some things are the way they are – without resorting to what seems like huge cop out. In this case, hindsight is never 20/20.
If you have seen the movie by the same title, you will get a firsthand glimpse of what a because I said so parent looks like. Diane Keaton was pushy, maddening, frustratingly close-minded, often irritating and mostly disrespected. Her children made fun of her behind her back and never quite understood how one person could be so certain that they were right all of the time. While the movie is a tad overboard, the truth is that there are a lot of because I said so parents out there.
First, understand that saying those four little words doesn’t indicate you have failed some test as a parent. Let’s be honest, when your child asks you the same question a million times, whines incessantly, wants a new explanation for something when there really isn’t one, or just gets on your nerves, because I said so works just fine. Perhaps you are a little tired, frustrated or overwhelmed and just want to end the discussion in the most succinct manner possible. The problem is that parents normally fall into two categories when it comes to the because I said so routine.
There are the parents that say, “Because I said so,” during times of stress - only to feel bad about them later. These same parents spend the majority of their time trying to make sure that their kids have full disclosure (and opinion) on everything. These kids learn from experience that they can drive you to insanity and that eventually you will cave into whatever it is your child wants. They know the squeaky wheel gets the grease and have become comfortable pushing you to such extremes that blurting out, “Because I said so,” comes natural as a defense mechanism for you and with tremendous guilt. This guilt, they will use to get you to do what they wanted in the first place. When they see you at the brink of your own temper tantrum, the kids probably tear up automatically and wonder how you could possibly be so mean to them. While over exaggerated, these because I said so kids actually benefit from the words. When you have reached that point with your child – they know that you will do some pretty amazing make-up stuff for or with them.
The next set of because I said so parents are militant in nature and rarely give their child a choice to disagree. In fact, if this is you, you will likely find that you don’t have to say this or anything else you ask of your children more than once without adherence. They listen because they don’t think they have any other options. And your child’s opinions in this instance don’t carry much weight, even if it is about personal matters and desires. This second set of parents, well – there kids are probably better behaved in public and otherwise resembling the clan from Gone with the Wind. But like those same children – yours too maybe a tad resentful and ready to burst at the seams at any given moment.
So perhaps it is best to find yourself somewhere in the middle ground. You cannot have a toddler without feeling the pangs of a because I said so moment every day. When they ask why, why, why and seem to question every little thing you do or say out of sheer curiosity, there will be times when there just isn’t another good and useful answer – or the energy to go into much detail. In this case, because I said so is perfect. When your kids ask you about sex, alcohol, drugs or whether they can go out on a date with someone you find yourself disliking very much, because I said so should also suffice. And in defense of the militant parents, children really should listen to their parents and follow the rules of the family and the house for the simple reason that it is what they were asked to do by the authority in their lives – you!
At the same time, if you can muster up the energy, the courage, or the strength, it is much wiser to explain things to children in a way that they can understand it. This shows your child that you respect them and care about their opinions and ideas. Even if they don’t like the explanation, it should at least give them a good idea of what you will and won’t tolerate or allow as a parent. When they see that you stick to your guns and seem to back your own arguments with actually carrying out the decision – they will become less likely to question it in the long term. This means less because I said so for you.